Family of stabbed pensioners calls for commissioner for crime victims

The family of an elderly couple who were stabbed to death by a man with mental health problems has written an open letter calling for a new commissioner for crime victims.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 6:30 am
Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were both aged 83 when they were killed by Thomas McEntee in 2017

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both aged 83, died in a knife attack by Thomas McEntee at their home in Portadown in 2017.

Two years after the killings, the family received an apology from the Department of Health at Stormont after being forced to endure a long struggle to find out the full facts surrounding the pensioners’ deaths.

It emerged that McEntee had made four separate visits to hospital seeking help before arriving at the Cawdery home – on one occasion while completely naked, with cuts on his arm after self-harming, and believing his life to be in danger.

The department apologised last year for “missed opportunities and failings” in the lead-up to the deaths.

Son-in-law Charles Little was the first to arrive at the scene following the killings.

He is now calling for the appointment of a commissioner to act on behalf of victims of crime in Northern Ireland.

Mr Little has written an open letter to the First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to outline the need for such a post to be created here.

In his letter, he said crime victims in Northern Ireland are being “traumatised further” by being forced to “fight for their rights, if they are able” or “ignored” if they are not.

He points to a number of what he describes as “mental health-related homicides” in recent years – including the killing of his own mother-in-law and father-in-law – where he believes families have been “routinely side-lined by health trusts and have had to struggle and fight for years to seek the truth”.

Mr Little’s letter calls for the creation of a post similar to that of the victims’ commissioner in England and Wales, who has specific legal powers, can work directly with the Ministry of Justice and can advocate on behalf of crime victims.

“I call on the first and deputy first ministers to bring forward legislation to ensure that the first commissioner appointed by this new Executive is a victims’ commissioner with the same powers, or greater, as the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales,” Mr Little writes.

He added: “I call on the ministers of health and justice to jointly meet as soon as possible with families of mental health homicides and suicides in order to gain understanding of how appalling the current situation really is.”